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Two GISCorps Volunteers completed their work for a mission – Panama

The Azuero Earth Project – AEP is a United States tax-exempt organization (501-C-3) operating in Panama as the Proyecto Ecológico Azuero. The organization is dedicated to local education, reforestation and sustainable land stewardship on the Azuero Peninsula, on the Pacific Coast of Panama, about 100km west of Panama City.

As a part of its mission, AEP has recently initiated a GIS mapping project to assess forest remnants and gaps and prioritize habitat conservation actions in a unique ecosystem threatened by development and overuse. This mapping and prioritization database will feed a Landowners Advice Program to raise awareness and provide local landowners with sustainable land use options. Our goal is to make this database as comprehensive as possible in order to reinforce our role as an environmental “dating service” on the peninsula, to create the links between scientists and information, landowners and sustainable land management resources, students and learning opportunities that will make the Azuero a healthier environment for all species.


General map of the Azuero Península. Panama

One important component of this database is the hydrologic network of the peninsula. The most detailed source of the rivers and streams currently available for this region is the set of topographic maps created by the Tommy Guardia Geographic Institute of Panama. In February 2011, the Azuero Earth Project contacted GISCorps to conduct a mission with the goal of digitizing all of the Azuero peninsula’s streams network, a large extent covering more than 700,000 hectares and consisting of twelve 1:50,000 topographic sheets.

After working with Guillermo Duran, AEP’s GIS Administrator, to create a detailed protocol showing all the steps required for the digitalization and naming of the streams, GISCorps recommended volunteers Josh Garver of Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District (FSWCD) in Ohio, and Emily Cheadle of the town of Babylon Department of Planning and Development in New York. The topo-maps of the peninsula were divided in half and were given to each volunteer. They spent from 5 to 7 hours per week on the project and finished in three months, presenting their final results in July.

Streams network of the Azuero Peninsula. Streams digitized by GISCorps volunteers Josh Garver and Emily Cheadle.

The streams network created by GISCorps volunteers will form a key part of the Azuero Earth Project’s database of conservation priorities because most of the small and isolated forest patches in the Azuero landscape are in the riparian zones adjacent to creeks and rivers on the peninsula. The Azuero Earth Project’s goals of creating habitat for wildlife and increasing habitat connectivity on the peninsula are supported by the data contributed by Emily and Josh through their GISCorps volunteer service. Riparian forest areas are some of the last remaining habitat for the critically endangered Azuero Spider Monkey, a subspecies endemic to the peninsula. With the streams layer and a forest cover dataset that AEP is currently working on, it will be possible to identify the streams that have been most affected by deforestation, and in this way focus efforts to work with landowners who have the most degraded lands or whose lands form critical linkages for habitat connectivity. The work Emily and Josh performed with GISCorps will serve as a resource layer that will allow visiting students and researchers to build upon their work to further study the ecology and environmental issues on the peninsula.

Pastures and isolated trees, a common view of the East side of the Azuero Peninsula. Panama

Cobachon River mouth and Cerro Hoya National Park. West side of the Azuero Peninsula. Panama

For more information about this project and the Azuero Earth Project’s work in Panama, please contact our GIS Administrator, Guillermo Duran, at or visit our webpage at


Deforested hills and forest patches along the coast of the Azuero Peninsula. Panama

Forest of the Cerro Hoya National Park. Azuero Peninsula. Panama

“I liked being able to utilize technology to collaborate over long distances and produce a versatile product. In addition, I’m in hopes that the data produced will be useable (and appreciated) in the future by others for a variety of uses.”

Josh Garver, GISCorps Volunteer

“I feel fortunate to have skills useful to help Azuero with their mapping/assessment goals.”

Emily Cheadle, GISCorps Volunteer
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